---Machinery Operators Wanted

Tisdale - October 17, 1999
By: Timothy W. Shire
  Looking out toward the West at the fall October sky it isn't hard to sense the coming future. Modern agriculture is a highly technologised and capital intensive business. From where this picture was taken, this was once the front yard of a big John Deere farm equipment dealership, it has been closed for a long time just as the next one, a few hundred yards up the road. John Bob Farm Equipment is right after that and you can see its sign on the horizon, the lone agricultural machinery dealer left in this thriving agricultural community and in the four years I have lived here I have seen this business suffer the strains that twist at the agricultural economy.
agricultural revolution As I drove around the John Bob lot Saturday afternoon trying to make sense out of the massive machinery that sits there waiting to be sold or leased, the future of agriculture in this part of the world seemed far more closer. Agricultural and economic historians will look back on the turn of the century as a time when the system of private entrepreneurial extensive agriculture in Canada and the United States shifted away from family run businesses to major corporate establishments taking over this sector of the economy. They will note that the change though not as dramatic or as sudden, had similar affects as the development of enclosures and the ability to feed cattle over winter in England in the eighteenth century which we now refer to as the agricultural revolution.
automated robotic agriculture The creating of large fields in England meant the elimination of the plot farming peasant, as fields were created that permitted the use of machinery to do the tilling of the soil and harvesting of the crops. Similarly, the corporate take over of private land on the Great Central Plains of North America would see the rise of a new level of automated robotic agriculture. With corporate involvement,the high level of capital outlay to equip the fields and develop the software to operate the miniature agricultural field units was made available and the mammoth field equipment of the twentieth century became a marvel of individual achievement and a symbol of inefficient farm practices.
computer technology Modern agricultural technology began in the 1980s when computer technology reached a level where it could be practically used to control farm equipment. The large tractor manufacturers immediately began using computers to control the huge tractors of the era so that in some, the air conditioner on the machine became a critical component, should it fail, temperatures inside the cab would exceed the operational limits of the computer and the machine would become inoperative. Other computer applications involved experimentation with small efficient field units that did not require an operator but relied upon computer control and some supervision from a central control system that would monitor the field units condition.
Agri-management Corporations

remote field units

central control unit
Though this technology was developed as the century drew to a close, it was not put to work because the private family farm operation did not have the capital to fund and implim

There was precedent for this development as custom spray companies had trouble finding skilled operators for their field equipment in the 1990s.

ent this new technology. However, the price commodity squeeze of the end of the 90s eliminated about 20% of the farmers and made the remaining operations unprofitable Large capital investment firms, largely funded by speculative mutual funds began buying up farm land from the banks and a new business began to emerge, Agri-management Corporations. Before 2003 these companies were spreading across the land in significant numbers using existing farm equipment, but this required the hiring of large numbers of farm machinery operators. Since the work was highly seasonal, the rural population dissipated quickly and there were few available skilled workers around to operate the quart million dollar machines that had been used to farm the land for decades. Without these skilled machine operators, the Agri-management Corporations turned to computer technology to at first remotely operate the farm equipment, but this proved to be impractical, and so they began purchasing remote field units (RFUs) that were smaller then an automobile, were programmed and required little supervision from the central control unit (CCU) located at the Agri-management headquarters. Full time mechanics were hired to service the RFUs and in the winter their time was spent refurbishing these units.

population declined by 60% During the first decade of the twenty-first century rural Saskatchewan's population declined by 60% leaving only those communities with secondary manufacturing industries still populated and the mechanics and CCU operators were situated in communities near the inland terminals that had been build in the 1990s. Between the few remaining towns the country became completely unpopulated. The few remaining family farms that had survived by becoming Agri-management Corporations themselves developed village farms. With the vanishing villages and hamlets went all schools and medical support systems. Those few children in rural areas obtained their education on the Internet or joined others at boarding schools which developed in urban areas. These high cost private schools would begin to produce the elite of the society and public schools in the rural areas focused on technical training, though students would attend them until age eighteen, these schools did not prepare students for university or collage entrance.


whole new highway system The drastic change to the prairies saw the development of a whole new highway system. Industrial roadways designed for trucks only. Rural service roads were no longer needed as the produce handling vehicles in the rural areas adapted to conditions and were made to handle all terrain conditions. Grain "B" trains with high floatation tires could effectively work on all surfaces delivering grain to the terminals and the new industrial road ways were structurally designed for conventional "tri" trailer units.
moved to British Columbia Old timers clung to their large remaining rural communities where they lived out their days and were sometimes visited by their children and grand children who for the most, did not live on the prairies, but had moved to British Columbia and South of the border the rural population had mostly relocated in Oregon, Northern California and Washington State. This remarkable shift in population was somewhat unexpected as the existing cities on the prairies continued to grow, but their population was self generated and by the 2020 cities like Regina and Saskatoon had as few as 25% non-status residents.

Resistence is futile. Though this account is spectualtive there will be few who read this and not realise that we are indeed on the brink of major changes in our way of live. With a "so-called" market economy, a business sector can not continue to operate below the break even mark and the political will to alter the conditions that create this environment do not, and will not exist. Present farming methods have reached the limit of labour and mechanical efficiency, though chemical and biological enhancements can produce marginal exceptions the cost and profit return are simply not viable. Therefore if changes are to take place it will require a major shift in either political national and international attitudes to agriculture, farming as we know must end and be replaced by technological methods just as occurred in eighteenth century Europe. Since there is no evidence of a shift in political attitudes here or in other countries it will fall on technology and capital resources to see these changes come to pass. Resistence is futile.